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    Ecological and geographical overlap drive plumage evolution and mimicry in woodpeckers.

    Miller, Eliot T, Leighton, Gavin M, Freeman, Benjamin G, Lees, Alexander C ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7603-9081 and Ligon, Russell A (2019) Ecological and geographical overlap drive plumage evolution and mimicry in woodpeckers. Nature Communications, 10. ISSN 2041-1723

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    Abstract

    Organismal appearances are shaped by selection from both biotic and abiotic drivers. For example, Gloger's rule describes the pervasive pattern that more pigmented populations are found in more humid areas. However, species may also converge on nearly identical colours and patterns in sympatry, often to avoid predation by mimicking noxious species. Here we leverage a massive global citizen-science database to determine how biotic and abiotic factors act in concert to shape plumage in the world's 230 species of woodpeckers. We find that habitat and climate profoundly influence woodpecker plumage, and we recover support for the generality of Gloger's rule. However, many species exhibit remarkable convergence explained neither by these factors nor by shared ancestry. Instead, this convergence is associated with geographic overlap between species, suggesting occasional strong selection for interspecific mimicry.

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